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Tom Jenkins. The Great Violinists Volume XI
Antonin DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)

Gypsy Songs No. 4; Songs my Mother taught me arr Kreisler
Manuel PONCE (1882-1948)

Estrellita arr. Heifetz
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)

Scherzo tarantelle Op.16
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Cantata No.156 – Sinfonia transcribed Franko as Arioso
Franz RIES (1846-1932)

La Capricciosa – two versions
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Wiegenlied arr Elman
Schwanengesang No.4 – Ständchen arr Byfield
Michael SPIVAKOVSKY (1919-1983)

Valse Burlesque
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Nocturne No.2 Op.9 No.2 arr. Sarasate
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)

Caprice Viennois
Josef SUK (1874-1935)

Four Pieces Op.17 No.4 Burleska
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)

Lindi di Chamonix – O luce di quest’anima
Eric COATES (1886-1957)

Bird Songs at eventide
Edward GERMAN (1862-1936)

Tom Jones – Waltz Song
Donald O’KEEFE

Give a helping hand
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)

Les Contes d’Hoffmann – Olympia’s Song

Dobra dobra
Tom Jenkins (violin) with
Sydney Ffoulkes (piano)
Reginald Kilbey (cello)
Dorothy Bond (soprano)
Recorded 1939-52 live broadcasts
SYMPOSIUM 1269 [63.12]


With the death earlier this year of Reg Leopold Britain lost the last of its ‘Violinist Entertainers’, as the writer Margaret Campbell once classified them. Most were at one time household names, from Albert Sandler to Max Jaffa, and they led the Spa, Palm Court and hotel bands that flourished for a couple of generations. Many, like Leopold, recorded widely and some, like Sandler, earned a fortune as the Scottish born violinist Henri Temianka – who employed a group of such musicians, including Sandler, in his own chamber orchestra – once had occasion ruefully to remark. He earned next to nothing by comparison.

Tom Jenkins has rather slipped the net and there are probably two reasons for this. Firstly he recorded relatively sparsely and secondly his fame was brief and came in the declining years of the milieu. He was born in Leeds in 1910 and at twenty-five joined the Hastings Municipal Orchestra at their conductor, Julius Harrison’s request. For the next few years he played the odd concerto engagement with the orchestra and followed the usual migratory travels for British orchestral musicians of the time; seasonal spa work and light music. In 1936 he joined J.H. Squire’s very popular Celeste Octet, a launching ground for many string talents, and his employer arranged for him to take lessons from the now London resident Carl Flesch (Jenkins had earlier studied with Edward Maude, leader of the Leeds Symphony Orchestra and with Charles Woodhouse, the long time leader of Henry Wood’s Proms). Jenkins was appointed to lead the orchestra of the Grand Hotel Eastbourne in 1938, which typically comprised a solo violin, two violins, viola, cello, bass, piano and organ/celeste. Prestigious positions followed with the BBC Salon Orchestra and the Grand Hotel, after Sandler’s miserably early death, but the biggest move was a projected one to lead Beecham’s RPO, thwarted by Jenkins’ illness – a lung was removed and, weakened, he took a position as an orchestral player. He died in 1957, like Sandler before him still in his forties.

All of Symposium’s material derives from off-air recordings on acetates, stored at the Jenkins home. He had presumably never played them again and most are in a slightly rough state of preservation; scratches, scuffs, occasional minor groove damage, but a number valuably complete with self announced items allowing one to hear his attractive speaking voice. The music is standard light fare of the day. The first track is the only pre-War one and in it one can appreciate the light ease of execution even if it’s not note perfect. The Wieniawski is rather metronomic but the Sam Franko arrangement of the Sinfonia – the so-called Arioso – shows some noble phrasing, crystalline in the upper register, if with a couple of clipped notes at phrase endings and swelling vibrato. He’s well suited to the Ries – there’s a reprise later on with cellist Reginald Kilbey – which is bold and assertive but I wish he’d forgotten loyalty and ditched the cellist’s florid arrangement of the Schubert and played it straight. Far too much of the potted plant about this one. In the Chopin his slide is discreet, his vibrato can be slowish in speed and narrow, and he can tend toward the salon swoon tremulousness in tonal production – that is apposite stylistically but objectively worrying. He locates the piece’s heart just before his interpolated and extravagant cadenza. His Kreisler rather disappointed me – a mite predictable – and his Suk Burleska is taken at a cautious clip. He is joined by Dorothy Bond for Offenbach – a rather piping light English coloratura but one that can go vertiginously high (no wonder she interpolated that famous missing high note for Grandi). Jenkins sits out the Coates and the band is on show for the Edward German in best operetta style. Finally there is the gypsy smear of the full band in Dobra Dobra, a rather intoxicating number; it’s not Lakatos, of course, but it’s not bad.

The notes are affectionate, frank and direct us to the fairly recent biography of Jenkins by Peter Pugh and Duncan Heath. Discographical details are rather messy and I’ve done the best I can. It might seem incongruous to have Jenkins as Number XI in Symposium’s Great Violinists series but light music has its own great exponents, of whom Jenkins was assuredly one.

Jonathan Woolf



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